In February 2012, I published (with co authors Richard Murnane and John Willett) “The State of Wiki Usage in U.S. K-12 Schools: Leveraging Web 2.0 Data Warehouses to Assess Quality and Equity in Online Learning Environments” in Educational Researcher. The article can be read for free here and the online supplemental materials here. You can also click on the tabs for the Wiki Quality Instrument above to get access to our instrument and extensive methodological material. I am deeply grateful to the Hewlett Foundation’s Open Educational Resources Initiative for their support of our work.

White Paper for Educators

A short white paper aimed at educators, with advice for wiki-using teachers emerging from our findings is available here:

The State of Wiki Usage: A Summary for Educators


Multimedia Interviews, Lectures, and Opeds

Several multimedia pieces have been produced related to this work:


Research Abstract:

To document wiki usage in U.S. K–12 settings, this study examined a representative sample drawn from a population of nearly 180,000 wikis. The authors measured the opportunities wikis provide for students to develop 21st-century skills such as expert thinking, complex communication, and new media literacy. The authors found four types of wiki usage: (a) trial wikis and teacher resource-sharing sites (40%), (b) teacher content-delivery sites (34%), (c) individual student assignments and portfolios (25%), and (d) collaborative student presentations and workspaces (1%). Wikis created in schools serving low-income students have fewer opportunities for 21st-century skill development and shorter lifetimes than wikis from schools serving affluent students. This study illustrates the exciting potential that Web 2.0 data warehouses offer for educational research.


My own opinion is that this article makes several important contributions to our understanding of learning technologies in the Web 2.0/networked era. First, as with many who have examined the use of social media in online learning, I am amazed and inspired by  the best projects conducted using wikis. In projects like the Flat Classroom Projects, students develop skills in collaboration, cross-cultural communication, media literacy, and critical thinking. Nonetheless, these extraordinary examples appear to be rare peaks in the landscape of social media/peer production usage in school.

Our core substantive findings cohere with results from the last three decades of education technology research: most teachers use wikis to extend existing practices rather than to innovate with new practices (at least through 2010) and wikis are more likely to be used to develop 21st century skills in schools serving wealthy students. From my perspective, these findings show that advocates of social media in the classroom have much work to do if we hope that the potential of these tools can be unleashed broadly in schools.

Methodologically, I hope the paper demonstrates the incredibly exciting potential of online learning environments for educational research. Our research team was capable of studying wikis both in depth, by examining the historical details of every wiki, and at scale, by sampling from hundreds of thousands of learning environments. The instrument we developed, The Wiki Quality Instrument, allowed us to use publicly viewable learning environments to measure opportunities for 21st century skill development across a diverse universe of wiki learning environments. We happened to take an interest in issues specifically related to learning technologies, but in the future, the kinds of analytic techniques have tremendous potential for studying diverse phenomena in education and learning.


My complete dissertation can be found here.




  1. EdTechResearcher » Income Achievement Gap Eclipses Racial Achievement Gap
    February 20, 2012

    […] State of Wiki Usage (2012) […]

  2. Keith Schoch
    March 7, 2012

    Thanks for sharing this work. As one of the contributors (via survey at pbworks), I’m shocked that so many wikis are abandoned so quickly. I use one as a class site (even though my district provides a portal for that purpose), my students use one for their online digital portfolios, and I have several in place as companion sites to various workshops I’ve conducted. Apart from Blogger, pbworks is the most reliable site I’ve worked with, and we could not be more pleased with the results. I think teachers and students alike just need to get past that original investment of time and energy to see the fruits of their labor.

  3. Thoughts on the Realities of Moving #beyondthetextbook – From Tom Daccord | Leading Change in Changing Times
    March 22, 2012

    […] data on the usage of 180,000 publicly accessible wikis and found that wikis were generally less helpful to poor schools than rich ones. At less afluent schools, wikis were often abandoned quickly and students had fewer opportunities […]

  4. ¿Sueñan las wikis con el aprendizaje colaborativo? | ALGARABÍAS
    June 16, 2012

    […] ¿Sueñan las wikis con el aprendizaje colaborativo? Posted on 16/06/2012 by danieljimenez var addthis_product = 'wpp-264'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":false,"data_track_addressbar":false};if (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}En una entrevista en el Berkman Center, Justin Reich presenta un estudio sobre el uso de wikis en educación. El informe concluye que sólo un 1% de las wikis consigue desarrollar un trabajo colaborativo o desarrollar la competencia digital de los alumnos. La mayoría de ellas contienen contenido estático subido por el profesor. El informe completo con varios añadidos se puede obtener aquí. […]

  5. Blaming the Poor as Framing a New Digital Divide « My Educational Technology Blog
    August 1, 2012

    […] today on “Wasting Time is the New Divide in the Digital Era” resonate quite a bit with my own research on digital inequities, but I find his racialization of the digital divide somewhat troubling, and his depiction of young […]

  6. OER, Internet and The Power of Pull | Classroom Aid
    February 20, 2013

    […] Technology Debate, December 2011. When Open Encounters Different Classrooms, Transition Talk. The State of Wiki Usage in U.S. K-12 Schools, Research […]


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